This March I was invited by the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio to give the keynote speech to 600 Girl Scouts during a Broadway Education program at the Aronoff Center. Students Live is an award-winning Broadway Education Company in New York, they create interactive programming across the country that re-inspires young people to discover the importance of theatre and the arts. They asked me to speak about the impact of theatre and art on my life, my career and general words of advice to the young ladies. I had 15 minutes on a Saturday afternoon before the matinee performance of Wicked, here is some of what I said.
"Baby, you can be anything you want in this world if you put your mind to it." My mother must have said that to me every single day when I was about the age of some of you. In fact, as early as kindergarten and throughout college that is what I heard daily, or at least that's what it seemed like. I held on to it even if the world told me otherwise. After all I did not come from money, by any means. I was the free lunch kid. I was short, I was chubby, (thick if you're from the black community) and I had horribly crooked teeth, and I was often the only, the only black girl in the class, the group, the club, the workplace. But I could do anything, my mother told me if I put my mind to it. And a high school Drama teacher put that to the test, she asked me to join the debate club and then try out for the school play. The moment I took the stage, it became real, there was no blending in or standing back, front and center was where I was born to be, and communicating stories to the public was what I wanted to do. I knew I could do it if i put my mind to it.
"Life and death is in the power of the tongue." It's one of my favorite proverbs, it means your words can create or destroy. What you say has power, if you say you are beautiful, smart, creative, capable, and fabulous, YOU ARE! So try it on for size, see how it feels, say " I am BEAUTIFUL!" " I am SMART" "I CAN DO IT!" " I CAN defy gravity!" Feels good doesn't it? Speak life into your situation, speak love onto yourself, because Baby YOU CAN be anything you want in this world if you put your mind to it. Words have power use them carefully.
"You are loved." Remember that always, no matter where you come from, what your challenges are, what people say to you or about you, YOU ARE LOVED. So be brave and find a way to express your authentic self. A perfect place to start is through the arts. Music, dance, visual art, theatre, are all perfect vehicles for you to create something special with your gifts, and say something wonderful about yourself and create something meaningful for the world. While I didn't know it then, theatre helped me discover my gifts, the ability to show people the beauty around them and the beauty within themselves. Use the arts to discover your gifts, wrap around you the truth that you are loved, understand that life and death are in the power of the tongue, and if you do all of that, you'll know without a shadow of doubt that "Baby, you can be anything in this world IF you put your mind to it."